A Lesson for Families: How to Stop Enabling

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For families and friends of loved ones who are addicts, it is only natural to try and help them through their struggles and find recovery. You want to do everything in your power to take action and support the addict, so he can get the drug and alcohol rehab treatment he needs. However, the steps that you take to help your loved one through their problems could actually be hurting them and making their addiction worse. These enabling behaviors may not be noticeable, but nevertheless, can hinder your loved one’s recovery.

In order to learn how to stop enabling, you must recognize if you are engaging in enabling behavior and take the necessary steps to ensure that the support you are providing is allowing your loved one to take responsibility for their addiction. The following is a step-by-step guide for families to stop enabling behaviors.

1. Ask Yourself the Tough Questions.


In order for you to learn to stop enabling your child or other family member, you need to look at your current behavior and ask yourself if you are contributing to the problem. For example, are you making excuses for your loved one’s addiction and behavior? Are you handling their responsibilities? Are you avoiding talking about their addiction in order to avoid conflict? If you are answering yes to these questions, you could be enabling.

2. Educate Yourself.

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Addiction is a complex and progressive disease. In order to truly help your loved one, you need to learn as much as possible about this condition. There are numerous resources for families of addicts that can provide the knowledge and support that you need. These resources include support groups such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon, doctors, addiction specialists and agencies that specialize in addiction, treatment, and recovery.

3. Set Boundaries.


With the knowledge and support you have received, you will need to learn how to create clear and solid boundaries between you and your loved one. You can let them know that you love them and are genuinely concerned for their well-being, but won’t be honoring their requests for help. This may include cutting off financial support, not making excuses for their behavior, not handling their responsibilities for them, or refusing to bail them out of jail. Be assertive and firm, but always maintain empathy.

4. Allow Them to Be Held Accountable.


By refusing to bail them out of tough situations, the addict will begin to see how their actions impact others. However, this act of stopping enabling may cause your loved one to lash out with threats and manipulation. It is important to stay the course with the boundaries that have been set. Be confident and in control when these situations arise.

5. Continue to Live Your Life.

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The disease of addiction causes significant stresses in families. It is important to understand that you are not responsible for the addiction. Don’t get drawn into feeling guilty for their addiction; ultimately, the addict has to deal with their addiction. It is better to focus on work, school, and family commitments, and not on the addict’s issues.

6. Continue to Seek Support.

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Ultimately, recovery from substance abuse is a lifelong process– for both the addict and family. Just as the addict continues to work on their issues in therapy and by attending support groups, the family and friends of addicts need to do the same. Continuing to receive help and support will further empower families to stop enabling their loved ones, and to help build stronger and healthier relationships.

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